KYIV, Ukraine (TNZT) — The Russian military extended its grip on eastern Ukrainian territory on Thursday, capturing two villages and vying for control of a key highway in an offensive that could sever lines of power. supply and encircle some Ukrainian, British and Ukrainian frontline forces. military officials said.
The British Ministry of Defense said Ukrainian forces had withdrawn from certain areas near the town of Lysychansk, the last major battleground in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine, to avoid the possibility of to be surrounded as the Russians sent in reinforcements and concentrated their firepower in the area. .
The Ukrainian General Staff said Russian forces had taken over the villages of Loskutivka and Rai-Oleksandrivka and were trying to capture Syrotyne outside of Sievierodonetsk, the administrative center of the Luhansk region.
“The enemy is burning everything in an attempt to surround the group of Ukrainian forces,” Lugansk Governor Serhiy Haidai told The The New Zealand Times.
“The Russians are advancing without trying to spare ammunition or troops, and they lack neither,” Haidai said. “They have an advantage in heavy artillery and troop numbers.”
“Part of the Luhansk region still remains under Ukrainian control, defying the Russians and provoking their fury and desire to burn it down,” he added.
For weeks, Russian forces pounded Sievierodonetsk with artillery and air raids, and fought the Ukrainian army house to house. Ukrainian forces remain entrenched at the Azot chemical plant on the outskirts of town, where around 500 civilians were also sheltering.
Haidai said Ukrainian soldiers were using the factory’s sprawling underground structures, but noted that “the shelling has intensified and even the concrete shelters cannot withstand the bombardment.” The Russians are using their full arsenal – heavy artillery, tanks, planes,” he added.
The Russians were also pushing their offensive on Lysychansk, which is located on a steep bank facing Sievierodonetsk.
Haidai said Lysychansk also faced a relentless Russian artillery barrage, which killed at least one civilian and injured three others in the past 24 hours. The governor noted that the Russians had concentrated more than 100 multiple rocket launchers to “beat down entire blocks”.
“The Russian military is ‘liberating’ Sievierodonetsk from life and workplaces,” he said in a sarcastic reference to Russia’s stated goal of “liberating” Donbass.
The British Ministry of Defense noted in its intelligence assessment on Thursday that Russian forces have likely advanced more than five kilometers (three miles) towards the southern approaches to Lysychansk since Sunday.
“Some Ukrainian units withdrew, probably to avoid being surrounded,” the statement said. “Russia’s improved performance in this sector is likely the result of recent unit build-ups and heavy fire concentration.”
The Ukrainian military said the Russians were also moving to overtake the hills overlooking a highway linking Lysychansk to Bakhmut in the southwest in a bid to cut off supply lines for Ukrainian forces.
Haidai said the Bakhmut-Lysychansk highway was not in use due to heavy Russian shelling and Ukrainian forces were getting supplies via an alternate route.
After a failed attempt to capture the Ukrainian capital at the start of the February 24 invasion, Russian forces have focused on eastern Ukraine’s industrial heartland, Donbas, where Ukrainian forces are fighting separatists backed by Moscow since 2014.
The Russian military currently controls around 95% of the Lugansk region and around half of the neighboring Donetsk region in the Donbass.
Asked about the prospects for a political settlement, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday that “it is possible after Ukraine meets all Russian demands”, adding that “the Ukraine knows exactly what they are.”
The Kremlin has previously demanded that Ukraine accept Russia’s sovereignty over the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014, and recognize the independence of breakaway regions to the east. Moscow also noted that Ukraine should acknowledge the situation on the ground, an apparent reference to other land gains Russia has made in southern Ukraine where it captured the Kherson region and part of the Zaporizhzhia region.
– A Ukrainian politician and TV personality says an online fundraising pitch to help Ukraine buy three offensive drones has already raised $10.4 million – in just 24 hours.
Serhiy Prytula credited the ‘incredible’ support of Ukrainians after his charitable foundation appealed for $15 million a day earlier for the purchase of Bayraktar drones like those Ukrainian forces have previously used to defend against the Russian invaders.
He tweeted: “$4.6 million takeaway. The People’s Bayraktar project is already a nationwide crowdfunding. Let’s make it international!
Yuras Karmanau contributed to this report from Lviv.